GR 249. Stage 21: Estación de El Chorro - Ardales
Attention please, there are some changes regarding this stage
Finished and officially opened project. The busy lane from Bobastro to Ardales was eliminated from the route, and the Town of Carratraca and its mountains were added.
Between two Embalses, the Lower and Higher reservoir
El Chorro train station marks the beginning of the stage, along a service road that passes over the dam of the Contraembalse del Tajo de la Encantada (Encantada Cliff) and turns right along the road. Just at the km marker 11 of the MA-5403 road, a dirt track splits off westwards (at the distance of 1.2 km) that quickly changes into a path.
After a couple of bends you will reach the penstock (reinforced pipes) viewpoint where you have to take extra precaution while climbing through a clear pine wood sometimes interspersed with olive trees, where Mediterranean Dwarf Palm, Broom-like Kidney Vetch, brooms and Osyris quadripartita have started to thrive as of late.
Passing under a rocky cliff you have the opportunity to see the composition of this peculiar mix of yellowish-coloured sandstone and conglomerates, predominantly calcareous rock, but also you can see slate, shale and peroditite boulders. In the cliffs of the upper zone there is opportunity to locate the vaults and holes left by soft clay inclusions as the rocks eroded, some of great dimensions. Such a hole is technically called a tafone. Smaller holes tend to clump forming panels due to alveolar erosion.
All around here there are spectacular views of El Chorro Reservoir, Valle del Guadalhorce, the Placas Frontales and the pine forest of the previous stage. The track widens whilst it leads through a pine wood with larger size trees and some Savin junipers. Suddenly, the track encounters the concrete wall of Presa Superior, the upper dam. Take a junction to the right which eventually leads to the top edge of the dam at its northeast end (km 4), where transit is restricted but then continue along the perimeter track circling the base of the dam. A clearing among pine trees allows you to gaze now and then at one of the best views of the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes gorge. The two gorges are visible, the Sierra of the Huma on the right and some of the mountains of the Almorchón with the sharp silhouette of the Pico del Convento. In the north-west corner of the reservoir´s Y-shaped part you will note a prominent hilltop observatory called Observatorio de Vigilancia del Chorro, which belongs to the Infoca Fire Prevention Plan. The track then turns south and passes through a natural pool surrounded by many tamarisks.
The ruins of Bobastro
At 5.6 kilometre marker you will access the MA-4400 service road of the reservoir, which you could follow to the left to reach an area of viewpoints in the Mesas de Villaverde, close to the excavated site of the Bobastro Ruins and a ledge containing cave dwellings and Mozarabic quarries (which are difficult to access), known as the Casa de la Reina Mora. Our walk, however, descends to the right along the road, and, in less than a kilometre, arrives at the information point of the Ermita Rupestre de Bobastro. During the Pulgarín Alto to Alfarnate stage you passed by the Cortijo de Auta farmhouse, which some quote as the birth place of Umar Ibn Hafsún (Omar Ben Hafsun in Spanish historiography); now it is time to see the capital of his rebellion against the Caliphate of Córdoba and the Umayyad dynasty, which is what Bobastro was. The fortified town is located above las Mesas.
The construction of the dam in the seventies of the last century has resulted in the loss of some of the site. From this 6.6 kilometre marker of the stage you can access (during the opening hours) the ruins of the Iglesia Rupestre de Bobastro, of Mozarabic origin, placed on a strategic place protected from the winds and looking towards the west. The construction of a church by this Andalucían leader corresponds with his conversion to Christianity after a long journey during which he had been looking for strategies to conquer the capital of Al-Andalus and overthrow the dynasty in power.
Las Viñas and la Cueva de Ardales
The pine forest ends just as you take a left junction off the road, having walked along the road for a kilometre. The track is in good condition, leading along the watershed line between the basins of Arroyo de los Granados and the River Guadalhorce, which flow in opposite directions at this point. There is a succession of clay and rocky hills and sandstone crags dotted with farmhouses and sheds with farming implements. You will pass one by one the Casa Bolero, Zamarrilla, Merchano and the Rancho del Boina. The old vineyards lost during the phylloxera epidemic have been replaced by dry farmed crops, predominantly almond trees, and uncultivated areas dedicated to the grazing of goats and sheep between broom and hedgehog vegetation.
There are numerous junctions left and right, always choose the track that goes up and along the slope. If you turn around and look back, you will be awarded with an excellent view of the Sierra de Huma, the Arco Calizo Central (Central Limestone Arch) with Torcal de Antequera, and the Guadalhorce Valley with the infrastructure of the Ave speed train. Looking ahead you will see the Sierra del Agua and its row of wind turbines.
At kilometre 9, the footpath of Arroyo del Granado approaches our path, with a few little houses scattered on its slopes and some groves of pine trees. A kilometre and half later, cross a watercourse where the track narrows and another climb starts adding on to all the previous twists and turns.
You are now back in the Monte Público, common land. You will thus reach El Puerto de la Riela pass, and la Alamedilla area, where, having crossed a little stream and before passing by gravel quarries, you will find Fuente de Fuenfría. Here the terrain undergoes a radical change as limestone and dolomite of the Sierra Blanquilla of Ardales appear.
Up to the natural spring you were headed south-west, but from here you will progressively turn southwards, and abandon E4-7 Long-distance Path (E4 GR 7) in order to go uphill towards Don Pedro Hill, where an rather steep incline, above all, on its downhill part is waiting for you. Having approached Romero Pass, you will see the dirt track that leads to the Sierra Aguas, and the other which goes to Carratraca. You are meant to follow the uphill trail on the right that goes west towards the pine forest in the Sierra Blanquilla, named after the white colour of its rocks.
Once you get to the Sierra Blanquilla, a well-formed footpath will take you to the village after you have gone past some old iron mines and Nuestra Señora de la Salud Country Chapel in ruins. You can admire a dramatic panoramic view of the valley, and the Mijas and Alpujata Mountains in the background. You will then arrive in Carratraca, at the spot which is halfway between Plaza de Torros (Bullring Square) and the Arab house, formerly residence of Mrs Trinidad Grund, where the Town Hall is today.
There are more historic spots and buildings along the way, such as Baños Street, where some old Roman and Arab baths, which were turned into a spa, can be found. You will then go past a small square, along an avenue, Avenida Andalucía, until you exit the old town by access road.
From Carratraca to Ardales
You need to cross the A-7277 road in order to finish the route. Go along a track that heads down to Arroyo de las Cañas, through a subway up to Lagar (Winepress) Farmhouse, which used to be a well-known place for jobs related to wine as you can judge by its name. The track moves uphill after the farmhouse, getting closer to the road on its right side.
You can see the end of the stage from Málaga Pass. Walk westwards from there, along a path surrounded by cypress trees, which you leave behind about 300 metres away. Go downhill to Arroyo del Conejo Stream, which leads to a large farm with a big goatherd. You will reach Calvario (Calvary) Country Chapel, and see Cerro de Olivo hill and Los Gamonales farm in the east and Castaña Hillock in the west. This is a great ventage point from which you may observe Ardales Castle, the reservoirs and the village of Peña de Ardales from the 19th century, which is related to Omar ben Hafsún’s riot. The end of the stage is right in front of you.
1. Initiation Stage:
Access Starting point: From Ardales, along a paved track off the MA-4401road. From Álora and Ardales, the MA-5403.
Starting point: point: Station of El Chorro.
Enjoy the walk safely: The viewpoint placed along the penstock (reinforced high-pressure pipe structure) does not have any railings to prevent falls, and potentially could be the most dangerous spot of the whole stage. Take great care looking out if
you do walk along it.
Roads at the beginning and at the end of the stage usually do not have much traffi c, but the hard shoulder is narrow or lacking. The entrance to Ardales does have much more traffi c. The rest of the asphalt or concrete sections are actually paved country tracks. If you look at the icon representing type of surface at this stage, roads as such do not cover as much of the itinerary as it may suggest. The ford across the Arroyo del Algarrobo, at km 10.5, normally poses no problem, since here it is a dry stream bed, but be careful in rainy season just in case. The water spring of the Fuenfría is the only water source, which hasn´t, of course, been treated for human consumption, and in addition it is diffi cult to locate. Finally, at kilometre 4 there is the Embalse de Villaverde. It
is forbidden to walk along the highest perimeter track at the top edge of the reservoir and any fall into the reservoir´s basin is very dangerou.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: Ardales is on a detour from the A-357 Málaga- Campillos road. From El Burgo it is reachable by the mountain roads that follow the Turón river: the MA-5401 and MA-5402.
Finish point: Municipal Museum of the Village of Ardales.
Possible "escape routes": The best place would be the Mesas de Villaverde, where there are the Contraembalse de la Encantada and a Venta (an inn).
No return point: Granado it is better to continue until Ardales, since with every step there are more houses and
the track becomes gradually more accessible to any vehicle
Connections to other footpaths and trails: The GR-249 y the GR-7 E-4 coincide entirely along this itinerary however in opposite directions.
In case of the other GR it is its stage 6, Ardales to El Chorro, 15.5 km long. At the Mirador de Ardales, almost at the end of the stage, the walk intersects with Camino de los Azulejos, and, and the asphalted track is known in the area as the track to Cueva de Ardales.